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7 Animals That Change Color Better Than Chameleons

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Chameleons are often described as the “quick-change artists” of the animal kingdom, rapidly altering the shade of their skins to blend into their environment. But contrary to popular opinion, these tree-dwelling lizards are actually rather poor color-changers, as you can see in the clip below, which features a Madagascarian panther chameleon (Furcifer pardalis):

While the creature's hue does change noticeably, the process takes several minutes and the eye-catching striped pattern on its sides remains intact—hardly the features of good camouflage. Furthermore, odds are that when you do see a chameleon change its color, it's probably trying to broadcast its mood rather than evade predators.

Nevertheless, the animal kingdom is filled with amazing color-changers, several of which dramatically outdo the chameleon clan in the skill of rapid-fire camouflage.

1. The Cuttlefish (Order: Sepiida)

Despite their cute-sounding name, these eccentric critters are actually cephalopods (the first of several you'll see on this list). Like many residents of their food chain, cuttlefish have to regularly switch between playing the roles of crafty predator and elusive prey. A group of specialized sacs which receive color-changing instructions directly from their brains help them to both grab a quick meal and avoid becoming one themselves.

2. The Peacock Flounder (Bothus mancus)

These flat fish are deadly predators thanks in part to a series of hormones that send pigment-modifying signals to their skin cells, which take effect within seconds. However, as you can see in the video below, their disguises aren't always perfect.

3. Various Squid Species

Several types of squid throughout the globe are capable of breathtaking color changes, such as this captive specimen filmed in a Turkish aquarium:

Recently, it was discovered that the series of pigment cells which control the color of these tentacled hunters could be synthetically manipulated by man-made electrical charges, as seen in the magnificent footage below:

4. Various Spider Species

A wide variety of eight-legged arachnids use camouflage to stalk their unsuspecting prey, including the bee-slaying white crab spider:

But amidst the 43,000 species known to science, a handful have even been known to engage in sudden spats of color-change. Among these are the genera Chrysso and Cryptophora, both of which hail from Australia.

5. The Cyanea Octopus (Octopus cyanea)

Using the same hue-shifting mechanism as its tentacled brethren, this inhabitant of the Indian and Pacific Oceans ups the ante by transforming the texture of its skin to match that of whatever it clings to.

6. The Mimic Octopus (Thaumoctopus mimicus)

Like a scene from John Carpenter's The Thing, these enigmatic octopuses take color change a step further still by not only revamping their pattern on a dime, but changing the very shape of their bodies to imitate a sea snake, lion fish, or piece of floating coral—to name but a few deep sea impressions the mimic octopus can convincingly pull off.

7. Golden Tortoise Beetle (Genus: Charidotella)

Sometimes, romance is reason enough to inspire a change in hue. According to some entomologists, the golden tortoise beetle of eastern North America turns scarlet while copulating. Interestingly, they'll also do this to scare off predators when threatened: The bright red display makes many predators believe that the beetles are poisonous and that they should look elsewhere for sustenance.

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Animals
Owning a Dog May Add Years to Your Life, Study Shows
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We've said that having a furry friend can reduce depression, promote better sleep, and encourage more exercise. Now, research has indicated that caring for a canine might actually extend your lifespan.

Previous studies have shown that dog owners have an innate sense of comfort and increased well-being. A new paper published in Scientific Reports and conducted by Uppsala University in Sweden looked at the health records of 3.4 million of the country's residents. These records typically include personal data like marital status and whether the individual owns a pet. Researchers got additional insight from a national dog registry providing ownership information. According to the study, those with a dog for a housemate were less likely to die from cardiovascular disease or any other cause during the study's 12-year duration.

The study included adults 40 to 80 years old, with a mean age of 57. Researchers found that dogs were a positive predictor in health, particularly among singles. Those who had one were 33 percent less likely to die early than those who did not. Authors didn't conclude the exact reason behind the correlation: It could be active people are more likely to own dogs, that dogs promoted more activity, or that psychological factors like lowered incidences of depression might bolster overall well-being. Either way, having a pooch in your life could mean living a longer one.

[h/t Bloomberg]

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Why Don't We Eat Turkey Tails?
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Turkey sandwiches. Turkey soup. Roasted turkey. This year, Americans will consume roughly 245 million birds, with 46 million being prepared and presented on Thanksgiving. What we don’t eat will be repurposed into leftovers.

But there’s one part of the turkey that virtually no family will have on their table: the tail.

Despite our country’s obsession with fattening, dissecting, and searing turkeys, we almost inevitably pass up the fat-infused rear portion. According to Michael Carolan, professor of sociology and associate dean for research at the College for Liberal Arts at Colorado State University, that may have something to do with how Americans have traditionally perceived turkeys. Consumption was rare prior to World War II. When the birds were readily available, there was no demand for the tail because it had never been offered in the first place.

"Tails did and do not fit into what has become our culinary fascination with white meat," Carolan tells Mental Floss. "But also from a marketing [and] processor standpoint, if the consumer was just going to throw the tail away, or will not miss it if it was omitted, [suppliers] saw an opportunity to make additional money."

Indeed, the fact that Americans didn't have a taste for tail didn't prevent the poultry industry from moving on. Tails were being routed to Pacific Island consumers in the 1950s. Rich in protein and fat—a turkey tail is really a gland that produces oil used for grooming—suppliers were able to make use of the unwanted portion. And once consumers were exposed to it, they couldn't get enough.

“By 2007,” according to Carolan, “the average Samoan was consuming more than 44 pounds of turkey tails every year.” Perhaps not coincidentally, Samoans also have alarmingly high obesity rates of 75 percent. In an effort to stave off contributing factors, importing tails to the Islands was banned from 2007 until 2013, when it was argued that doing so violated World Trade Organization rules.

With tradition going hand-in-hand with commerce, poultry suppliers don’t really have a reason to try and change domestic consumer appetites for the tails. In preparing his research into the missing treat, Carolan says he had to search high and low before finally finding a source of tails at a Whole Foods that was about to discard them. "[You] can't expect the food to be accepted if people can't even find the piece!"

Unless the meat industry mounts a major campaign to shift American tastes, Thanksgiving will once again be filled with turkeys missing one of their juicier body parts.

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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